Developmental systems theory formulated as a claim about inherited representations

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Developmental Systems Theory (DST) emphasises the importance of non-genetic factors in development and their relevance to evolution. A common, deflationary reaction is that it has long been appreciated that non-genetic factors are causally indispensable. This paper argues that DST can be reformulated to make a more substantive claim: that the special role played by genes is also played by some (but not all) non-genetic resources. That special role is to transmit inherited representations, in the sense of Shea (2007: Biology and Philosophy, 22, 313-331). Formulating DST as the claim that there are non-genetic inherited representations turns it into a striking, empirically-testable hypothesis, driving the sort of investigations that are only now beginning to appear in the scientific literature. DST’s characteristic rejection of a gene vs. environment dichotomy is preserved, but without dissolving all potentially explanatory distinctions into an interactionist causal soup, as some have alleged.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-82
Number of pages23
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011


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